How to Survive The Ikea Shopping Trip – My Guide, and Yes it Includes Meatballs!

I use Ikea alongside salvage yards and junk shops to bring the rooms to life and make them my own.

How to Survive The Ikea Shopping Trip - My Guide, and Yes it Includes Meatballs!

How to Survive The Ikea Shopping Trip – My Guide, and Yes it Includes Meatballs!

How to Survive The Ikea Shopping Trip - My Guide, and Yes it Includes Meatballs!

I love interior design. I adore art. I love beautiful things and want to be surrounded by them. Sadly my budget doesn’t always match my aspirations.

Over the years I’ve lived in rented one room apartments, mortgaged victorian terraces and larger ex-council properties. Whilst renovating my various homes over the years, I’ve made no end of mistakes, some more costly than others. I’ve learned by them.

Let me help with a few tips to keep you safe and sane.

They may just save you from making those time consuming or expensive mistakes.

The best friend of the interior designer on a budget is Ikea. Can you believe it’s nearly 30 years since they opened their first UK store? I’m a self confessed addict. It started with a mutual love of wood and candles and has developed over the years as we’ve both aged and matured.

I use Ikea alongside salvage yards and junk shops to bring the rooms to life and make them my own.

Here’s how I do it…

How to Survive The Ikea Shopping Trip – My 5 Practical Tips

1. Forward Planning, Preparation and Measuring

Ikea Preparation Kit

Buy a note book or scrap book, something with a cover to inspire you.

Collect ideas and images to inspire you.

Record all relevant details, size of rooms, height as well as floor space. Draw out diagrams of possible room set ups.

Write down exact size you want, or the minimum and maximum sizes for the space it will inhabit.

If you want a piece of art measure the space it will inhabit.

Use catalogues to get room ideas. Cut out and stick inspiring pictures into your notebook. Your notebook is your one stop shop, so scribble down anything that comes up mind. Always take it with you on shopping trips.

Join Pinterest and make virtual boards, maybe for each project or room, then fill it with inspiration and practical tips.

Take some photos of your rooms on your phone, you can use these at the store. I’ll come back to that later.

2. Invest in Things You Use Most

Do not skimp on items such as mattresses and chairs. Your back will thank you in the long run. Ikea are genius with packaging. You’ll be amazed how small they can package a mattress for you to get it home.

Ikea Mattress

You can make bed bases from Ikea units (search Pinterest for 100’s of Ikea hacks) always make sure the mattress is a good one. If it means you need to buy charity or thrift store books and cut back on posh ice cream for a while, that’s no bad thing.

In your notebook calculate how many hours you will use items.

Will you see it or touch it every day, or only once in a while? Is it on show or hidden away?

Do you love cooking?

Invest in good pans.

Work at home? A good solid clear workspace may be your priority. Ikea have loads of ideas on their website.

If you’ve a set of drawers for your undies, you will use it every day, I hope!. Like the cabinet but not the plastic handles? Invest in tactile, beautiful ones. Each day they will bring your pleasure. You can buy them in Ikea or an antique store, or make your own. They even have these sort of ideas on display in the store. Create your own unique Ikea hack, I’d love to see how you get on, pin it, tweet it, share it with me.


3. Lists are Your Best Friend

Ikea is BIG. We’re talking good comfy shoes big. You can be there for hours.

Ikea is GOOD. It is good at design, good at product manufacture and sourcing, perhaps most importantly it’s good at selling. It’s easy to get drawn in and buy stuff you don’t need.  So make a list, be specific.

If you’re on a budget (aren’t we all?) take a list and importantly, stick to it! OK, so I’ll let you drop a candle or three in the trolley and browse the ‘reduced’ corner too BUT you’ve been warned.

Ikea provide free paper lists, pencils and tape measures (paper cuts – ouch!) so you can scribble down where to find the bigger items in the storage area. Everything’s very efficiently labelled and signposted.

The smaller items you pick up as you walk around the store. Really big stuff needs to be collected at the end, be warned, there can be queues.

Trolley getting too full? Go and have a coffee in the store cafe and think about it. (Get your Ikea family card for options on FREE coffee and discounts) If you’re unsure, refer to your notebook and double check your purchases fit with your overall plan.

One thing on my list, every time, meatballs, yep, meatballs. Veggie, chicken or meat, they all deserve a place!

4. Health and Safety

If the instructions say fasten to the wall, then FASTEN TO THE WALL! Falling furniture can kill, or seriously injure, that’s why the warning is there.

Why worry about this before buying? Well, you may need to adjust your plans. You may choose two low cabinets instead of one tall one, especially if you are in rented accommodation and can’t fasten them to walls.

Read the labels, if it says 2 people are needed, it says it for a reason. You’ll need 2 people. I lived alone and managed most things through necessity, sometimes avoiding bigger buys, PLEASE be careful.

Big items like wardrobes can be put together for you by a professional, it may be worth the investment.

Will you have the room to build the item? Taller pieces require ‘leverage’ height which is often forgotten about, until you come to stand it up!

If in doubt, ask the helpful staff.

Remember those photos in your phone? Your drawings in your notebook? This is the time to share them. A picture speaks a 1000 words and helps people understand your situation.

5. Relax and enjoy the experience

In the UK, you can sign up for a family card and get free coffee if you shop at certain times. Their meals are healthy and cheap.

Take your time in the store to browse, take photos, make notes in your book. Their interior and store designers are brilliant at hacking and enhancing their products, so learn from the professionals.

As you check out you can scan your receipt to get a free offer, or donut!

Buy a cheap bag for life, the big blue ones.

You won’t regret it. They are a bargain price and can be used in the garden, camping, laundry, they fit in supermarket trolleys. I’ve even seen them cut down and used as backing for picnic blankets.

 One of my favourite things about being a devoted Ikea shopper is standing in the car park. Watching naive first timers try to fit their purchases into their car. Ha! Sorry, but it can be funny. The stores are so vast everything looks smaller inside. Get out to the car and ooops, no, it won’t fit. I once watched a mother take out the child’s car seat in her efforts to pack all her shopping in. She succeeded getting it all in, only to then gaze at her child and car seat still sat on the kerb.

At this point I’d packed up successfully (the benefit of pre-planning, you’ll thank me for it!) as I drove away she sighed and started to unpack again. See tip no 1 about measuring!

Travel home safely, the stores sell various packing straps etc to fasten furniture securely in your vehicle. Brilliant!

Tea and Ikea candles and napkins

After unpacking the car you can sit with a cup of tea, in an Ikea mug of course and ponder where to place all those candles. What excitement sits in those flat brown cardboard boxes?

Anticipation….Next job…construction…see my next post for my quick tips!

You may also like:

How to Organise Your Bookcase

How to Build Ikea Flatpack Furniture –  My Flatpack Assembly Survival Guide – ( Without Breaking a Nail! )

Ikea Ideas

My Resources

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I hope I’ve inspired you, tweet me from your next coffee stop!


I’m a writer and creativity coach focused on sharing my love of travel, writing and books. I motivate, educate and widen horizons by blogging about my world of travel and words, writing books and encouraging others to find their voice.